Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best things from 2012...

Yes! Weekly looks back on all things food from 2012. Guess who won the "Best Food-Related Event"!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

We love cooking. And we love competitive cooking. But we also love people who write about our competitive cooking.

And that's exactly what Mackensey Lunsford of the Asheville Citizen-Times did in advance of our upcoming "Got to Be N.C." Fire on the Rock series in Asheville, where she'll be serving as guest judge.

If you're a journalist interested in being a judge for future events, contact us here or on Twitter @CompDiningNC. In the meantime, check out Mackensey's piece here and pick up tickets for the event here.

“Got To Be N.C.” Competition Dining Series announces chef battle bracket for Fire on the Rock-Asheville

The competition at Lioncrest on Biltmore fires up on Jan. 14 with the first of 7 dinners. Check out the brackets below. Tickets available at

The 2013 “Got To Be N.C.” Competition Dining Series has announced the eight chefs chosen to compete in the preliminary Asheville rounds of Fire on the Rock, which kick off Jan. 14.

Sponsored by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Southern Foods-Pate Dawson, the inaugural Asheville competition will pit eight of Asheville’s best chefs in an Iron Chef-style competition. The Fire on the Rock-Asheville finalist will go head-to-head with the Fire on the Rock- Blowing Rock finalist in Blowing Rock on April 30.

Below are the participating chefs and the dates for the dinners to be held at Lioncrest on Biltmore in Asheville. All dinners start at 6:30 pm.

Jan. 14

Peter Pollay of Posana Café versus Scott Wallace of RankinVault

Jan. 15

Adam Hayes of The RedStag Grill versus John Strauss of Hobnob

Jan. 16

Matthew Miner of The Asheville Public versus Jason Brian of Jack of the Wood

Jan. 17

Jason Roy of Lexington Avenue Brewery versus Mauricio Abreu of Chef Mo’s

Jan. 22

Jan. 14 winner versus Jan. 15 winner

Jan. 23

Jan. 16 winner versus Jan. 17 winner

Jan. 30

Jan. 22 winner versus Jan. 23 winner

From left to right:

Matthew Miner, Asheville Public
Scott Wallace, Rankin Vault
Jason Roy, Lexington Ave. Brewery
Mauricio Abreu, Chef Mo’s
Jason Brian, Jack of the Wood
John Strauss, Hobnob
Adam Hayes, The Red Stag Grill
Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe


Fire on the Rock opens series in January with a new Asheville venue


Chefs challenged to bring on the fire in 2013 “Got To Be N.C.” Competition Dining Series

ASHEVILLE, N.C.— North Carolina chefs are sharpening their knives—and their culinary skills—as the “Got To Be N.C.” Competition Dining Series kicks off its second year of statewide competition. Sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA) and Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, the “Got To Be N.C.” Competition Dining Series pits North Carolina’s top chefs in five regional Iron Chef-style competitions that culminate with the battle of the regional champions at the Final Fire event in November.

In this unique experience, diners sample six gourmet dishes prepared by two competing chefs and vote after savoring each dish. Diners’ critiques can count up to 70 percent of the score with select judges determining up to 30 percent. Each chef builds the courses around a “secret” North Carolina ingredient selected by the NCDA, which is revealed less than an hour before the chefs start to prep the night’s meal.

Fire on the Rock kicks off January 14 at Lioncrest on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Eight chefs from the area will battle during preliminary rounds January 14-17, followed by the semi-finals January 22-23, with the Fire on the Rock-Asheville finalist determined on January 30. Tickets for the event will be available on Saturday, December 15, and can only be purchased at

"As we looked to expand in 2013 we knew we had to engage the amazing culinary talent that resides in Asheville and the lower mountain region,” said Fire on the Rock founder Jimmy Crippen.  “Competition Dining was born in the mountains, so we felt that we should incorporate the Asheville area into the original Fire on the Rock series."

The second leg of Fire on the Rock will kick off in April at Meadowbrook Inn & Suites in Blowing Rock, the birthplace of the “Got To Be N.C.” Competition Dining Series. As in Asheville, eight chefs from the area will battle during preliminary rounds April 8-11, followed by the semi-finals April 16-17, with the Fire on the Rock-Blowing Rock finalist determined on April 24.

On April 30, the Asheville finalist will go head-to-head with the Blowing Rock finalist at Meadowbrook Inn & Suites, and the top chef will be crowned Fire on the Rock champion. Each regional winner receives the coveted “Red Chef Jacket,” and advances to the Final Fire series in November 2013 to vie for the 2013 championship title and a cash prize.

Throughout the 2013 season, an estimated 10,000 guests will be served gourmet meals prepared by 80 chefs at 79 different battles. Interested in attending? Consider buying tickets early—only available online at—as nearly every battle in the 2012 season sold out. The second regional battle will kick off in February with Fire on the Dock in Wilmington, followed by Fire in the Triad in Greensboro, Fire in the Triangle in Raleigh and a new Fire in the City round in Charlotte.

For more information, visit the “Got To Be N.C.” Competition Dining Series Facebook page, YouTube channel or Twitter feed.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Triangle Chef Ryan Payne from Weathervane Wins Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series Final Fire Battle of the Champions

Raleigh, N.C. (Nov. 18) After a year of 15-dinner competition dining events in Blowing Rock, Wilmington, the Triangle and the Triad, the Final Fire regional showdown began Thursday night; Michael Foreman from Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock bested Triad champion George Neal of 1618 Seafood Grille. Ryan Payne emerged victorious in the Friday night battle with Fire on the Dock champion Andy Hopper from Chefs 105 in Morehead City.

In the most competitive and highest scoring battle of the year, Chef Ryan Payne’s Weathervane Restaurant Team from A Southern Season in Chapel Hill edged out Blowing Rock’s Bistro Roca team led by Chef Michael Foreman.

At each series battle, chefs are required to use one (or two) featured NC products in each of their courses. Last night's featured products included Heritage Farms Pork from Seven Springs; the chefs were told to specifically use pork jowls and cushion cuts. The second ingredient was Pepsi, the soft drink developed in New Bern by a local pharmacist in 1898. Each chef team prepared three courses each using both featured products for 160 diners in a sold-out ballroom at the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel.

Payne’s highest scoring dish of the evening was dessert: Pork Fat Funnel Cake, Buttermilk Cake, Pepsi-Apple Ice Cream, Candied Pork Jowl, Cherry Pepsi Syrup. His "very pregnant" pastry chef Vanessa Haydocka, engineered the dish for the team.

Michael Foreman earned the highest score of the evening with a nod to his time spent in the Southwest: House-Made Jowl Pancetta Risotto with Taos-Style Braised Pork Cushion, Dos Equis Beer-Pepsi Jus & Pine Nut-Cumin Pistou.

Culinary pro judges for the evening included CNN Eatocracy Blog Managing Editor Kit Kinsman; Evan Nash of Johnson & Wales in Charlotte; Scott Craig of Charlotte, one of six Americans to win a Gold Medal at the International Culinary Olympics in Germany in Oct.; Dathan Kuzsak, food blogger and design editor at the Triangle Business Journal; and Daniel Benjamin, pastry chef at Herons at the Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary. Culinary pro scores counted 70 percent for the evening. The audience scores counted 30 percent.
Weathervane Team with's Eatocracy blog managing editor, Kat Kinsman

A $4000 check was presented to Payne by Mac Sullivan, chief executive officer of Southern Foods-Pate Dawson and Jimmy Crippen, host and founder from Crippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock. Foreman’s team received a $1000 check. Ironman Forge in Charlotte presented unique, handmade knife sets to both teams.

For scores and complete details of last night’s food NC food extravaganza, visit Facebook at or


This is the first year for Got To Be NC Competition Dining as a statewide competition. Since January, 64 chefs have competed in four regional competitions and served more than 6000 diners. Last night’s event was the finale of the 2012 competition designed to engage the farmer, the chef and the diner in an exciting evening of food and entertainment with the goal of the promoting North Carolina chef talent and the use of local ingredients.

Fire on the Rock kicked off in Blowing Rock in Jan. 2012. Next, Fire on the Dock launched in Wilmington. Summer brought Fire in the Triangle to Raleigh. In Aug. and Sept, Fire in the Triad landed in Greensboro. Next year, the event plans to expand into Charlotte and include Asheville in its Western NC series.

The event would not have been possible without statewide sponsors: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Southern Foods/Pate Dawson, OUR STATE, Crippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock, Whole Harvest Foods and h.ITS Technology. The Office of the State Fire Marshal in North Carolina provides information at each dinner as cooking accidents are the number one cause of home fires.


Media Contact: Susan Dosier,, 704.993.7871 mobile

Friday, November 16, 2012

Payne Tops Hopper; Neal Bows To Foreman

Thursday and Friday night saw semi-final battles with four regional champions; pumpkin and sweet potatoes took center stage as the featured North Carolina ingredients.

Raleigh, N.C. (Nov. 16, 2012) After two nights of intense culinary competition at the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills, two chefs have emerged from the field of four regional champions. Michael Foreman from Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock and Ryan Payne from Weathervane at Southern Season in Chapel Hill will face off in the Saturday night final battle for bragging rights, $4000 grand prize and a handmade knife set from Ironman Forge in Charlotte. Foreman won the Fire on the Rock series held in Jan. and Feb.; Payne earned Fire in the Triangle title this summer.

On Thursday night, veteran competitor Michael Foreman edged out Fire in the Triad Champion George Neal of 1618 Seafood Grille in Greensboro by only one point in Battle Pumpkin. Neal’s top dish of the evening was Blackened Beef Chuck over Sweet Potato-Pumpkin-Bacon Cake with Bourdelaise, Spicy Pumpkin and Lump Crab Mousse and Pumpkin Oil. Foreman’s highest-rated plate was dessert: Spiced Pumpkin Cake Layered with Praline Pastry Crème, Orange-Almond Tuile, Cream-Cheese Ice Cream, with Cheerwine and Tart Cherry Coulis. Images and details from this battle here:

Culinary pro judges for the night included Our State Magazine Editor Elizabeth Hudson; Durham Foodie Blogger Johanna Kramer; WRAL Out and About Managing Editor Kathy Hanrahan; Chef Joseph Brown, Dean of the Culinary School at the Art Institute in Durham; Chef Eric Gephart, Chef Instructor at Chef¹s Academy in Morrisville. Kitty Kinnin, radio personality and host of “Sunday Brunch” on 100.7 The River was a special guest on both Thursday and Friday.

On Friday night, Triangle talent Ryan Payne topped coastal young gun and Fire on the Dock Andy Hopper of Chefs 105 in Morehead City in Battle Sweet Potatoes. Hopper’s top dish of the evening was Balsamic-Braised Pistachio-Dusted Brisket, Creamy Sweet Potato Puree, Roasted Root Vegetables, Braised Collards and Red Currant Veal Sauce with a sprinkling of Purple Potato Powder. Payne’s top dish was also the highest scoring combo of the evening: Sweet Potato-Glazed Pork Belly, Braised Collards, Purple Sweet Potato Grits and Duck-Fat Sweet Potatoes. Images and more on this battle here:

Culinary pro judges for the night included nationally recognized travel and food writer/ author Diane Daniel; NikSnacks Blogger Nikki Miller-Ka; Chef Jim Noble, owner of multiple restaurant concepts in Charlotte and the Triad, including Rooster’s, The King’s Kitchen, and Noble’s Grille; Chef Geoff Gardner, Director of Food and Beverage at the Biltmore in Asheville; and Michael Moore, founder of the Blind Pig and Sous Chef at the Admiral in Asheville.

Saturday night’s secret ingredient will be revealed to chefs Foreman and Payne at 10 am on Saturday morning at the Renaissance North Hills Ballroom A. The chefs will be cooking for a sold out house as they have each night of the Final Fire competition. Tickets for tonight’s final sold out in 20 minutes when tickets were released online last month. In a fresh twist at the finals, the competition is weighting the culinary judge scores at 70 percent and the public scores at 30 percent. In all previous competitions, the reverse has been true.

Follow the event live on Twitter: #CompDiningNC

Amping Up the Finals: Culinary Pro Judge Scores Count 70 Percent; Audience Scores Will Count 30

Got To Be NC Competition Dining announced a change in their judging strategy for the finals this week. Last night, tonight and tomorrow, culinary pro judges’ combined scores will be weighted at 70 percent. The public’s combined scores will be weighted at 30 percent.

“This keeps our competitors on their toes,” said founder and host Jimmy Crippen. Crippen had used the same strategy in the finals during past years for Fire on the Rock, the first competition Crippen hosted in Blowing Rock, NC. With the statewide competition in its first year, Got To Be NC Competition Dining agreed the change would provide yet another twist for the chef finalists.

“It also keeps things fair. Now with five culinary pros coming from diverse backgrounds and different parts of the state, no one can unduly influence the scores.”

The public vote will still be just as critical as it has always been to the contest. Diners and judges will be using the app designed by h.ITS to enter their scores on smart phones for each course. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Judge Appears in Cooking Show!

Fire in the Triad blogger and Guest Judge Nikki Miller-Ka teaches some delicious fall recipes on WFMY News2

Announcing The Final Fire: Battle of the Champions!

Greetings from Jimmy Crippen and the team behind Competition Dining! Thank you for making our first year such a stunning success. Because of your support, 64 chefs were showcased to more than 5000 diners statewide using a cornucopia of over 500 North Carolina ingredients and products. It’s a perfect recipe for months of live culinary entertainment featuring The Chef, The Farmer, and You--The Diner!

You said you wanted a "final four."  Well, we're excited to announce The Final Fire: Battle of the Champions! The event will span three battles, Nov. 15, 16, and 17 at the 
Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel at 4100 Main at North Hills Street.  Tickets go on sale Oct.11.  After a thrilling Fire in the Triad finale, the four regional champions drew knives in Greensboro to determine the Battle of Champions bracket (check out the video here). The schedule is:

Nov. 15

George Neal, 1618 Seafood Grille, Greensboro,

Michael Foreman, Bistro Roca and Antler’s Bar, Blowing Rock,

Nov. 16   

Andy Hopper, Chefs 105, Morehead City,

Ryan Payne, Weathervane at A Southern Season, Chapel Hill     

Nov. 17          

The Finale:  Nov. 15 and Nov. 16 Winners

Because you purchased tickets and supported our vision when no one was sure of who we were or what we were doing, we wanted to reach out and say “Thank you!”  We also wanted to give you a personal heads-up that 
TICKETS WILL GO ON SALE at on Oct. 11 at 7 pm. Each ticket costs $119 excluding beverage, tax and tip. Each ticket buyer can purchase up to 10 tickets.

We anticipate these tickets to sell in less than one hour, so be ready. Tickets can ONLY be purchased online from our website. Keep your eyes on our Facebook page and Twitter feed to get the inside scoop on competition news and announcements regarding the Final Fire. We invite you to celebrate and make your visit a weekend event. When you book at the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel, tell them you are coming for The Final Fire. To plan more foodie fun while visiting Raleigh, visit

We extend a big thanks to our sponsors, who have been on board with us since the beginning of this year: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA),
 Pate Dawson-Southern Foods
OUR STATE MagazineCrippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock,h.ITS Technology, and Dansko Shoes.

We look forward to bringing our champions together for the final competition dining series of 2012.

Remember that Goodness Grows in North Carolina and as for Competition Dining, It’s Got To Be NC!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Highlights from Fire in the Triad

Nikki Miller-Ka looks back on 2 months of battles with pictures, descriptions, scores, and even recipes of your favorite dishes!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Battle Eggs Makes One Blogger a "Raving Fan"

Nikki Miller-Ka of NikSnacks is inspired to pen an impassioned letter after experiencing Chef Neal's and Blackburn's "unforgettable meal."

Chef from Fire in the Triangle Shares His "Take-Aways"

One of the Fire in the Triangle Greats, Chef Mike Lee of Sono, shares what he gained from his experience in  this year's Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fire in the Triad goes Red, White and Bleu

Nikki Miller-Ka blogs about getting her dream job! - judge of Fire in the Triad quarterfinals! Read all about it here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mod Meals on Mendenhall Blogs Battle Bison

Blogger, Cecelia Thompson takes a break and gets to play Iron Chef Judge at Battle Bison. Read about her experience here.

Battle Scuppernong and Heirloom Tomatoes Goes to Milner's

Did you know that scuppernong is the state's official fruit? Find out what else blogger Nikki Miller-Ka learned in her post here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Honey of a Battle: Nik Snacks Covers Green Valley Grill VS Emerywood Fine Foods

Nikki goes behind the scenes and gets to know the families, too. You'll also see the folks behind the night's secret ingredient, St. Dominic's Honey of Mayodan, NC.

Round Six and Greensboro Restaurants Still Hold the Lead: Greensboro News-Record blog

Carl Wilson does a quick recap of this week's Battle Bison.

Amanda Clark Blogs Her Thoughts on Battle Honey

Amanda Clark and John Batchelor joined us as culinary pro judges at Battle Honey between Green Valley Grill in Greensboro and Emerywood Fine Foods in High Point. The balance of the honey with the other flavors was a key component to her assessment of the dishes. Read more

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Charlotte's SouthPark Magazine Calls out Got To Be NC Competition Dining

In a round-up article in the new issue, writers Kathy Newbern and J.S. Fletcher highlight Blowing Rock favorite destinations as well as Crippen's Country Inn & Restaurant-the place where Fire On The Rock originated....and the origins of the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series.

Nik Snacks: A Battle Of Wits, Bits and Crispy Bits

She chronicles the great feats and food of the battle between Winston-Salem's Spring House Restaurant and 1618 Seafood Grille in Greensboro:

Nik Snacks: Check Out Her Blogs for the First Week of Fire in the Triad

Aug. 13  Lucky 32 in Greensboro VS Bistro B in Kernersville:

Aug. 14  Josephine's in Greensboro VS Noble's in Winston-Salem

Aug. 15  Southern Lights in Greensboro VS Meridian in Winston-Salem

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Winston-Salem Journal Says Fire in the Triad Has Chefs and Diners "Fired Up"

Food columnist and writer Michael Hastings joined us for the first Fire in the Triad event, Battle Cheerwine. He says the event has "good cheer." Find out what else he enjoyed about it. Michael will also be a culinary pro judge at the finals. Read Michael's story in today's paper.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Greensboro News & Record announces Fire in the Triad

See the list of the chefs battling in the Triad and get Carl Wilson's take on how the contest works:

TBJ Flash Blogs About the House of Payne

Check out the seriously cool photo gallery on the right hand side of the blog. Dathan Kaszuk even waxes a little sentimental as he notes some of the new people he met during the event on page 2. Check it out:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Battle Pork Was Also Known as Battle Mustache! Durham Foodie Decodes the Closest Battle Yet

Kramer writes, "I already knew the “Fire in the Triangle” battle between Chef Chris Hill of The Oxford and Chef Dean Wendel of Flights at the Renaissance North Hills Hotel was going to be fun, how could it not when both teams branded it “Battle Mustache....”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wanna Know What Was Going on in Judge Debbie Moose's Head?

Find out here! Debbie just shared the link from her blog with us. Find out what litmus test she used as she evaluated the dishes for Battle Corn. An accomplished cookbook and journalist, Debbie writes with authority. Take a look!

Durham Foodie: Just a Few Votes Made the Difference in Battle Corn

The dishes were gorgeous, and the crowd loved the creative spins on corn. Durham Foodie blogger Johanna Kramer gives the recap to last night's Battle Corn with 518 West Italian Cafe and Herons at the Umstead Hotel. And yep, she's tells you who will now go to the FINAL FOUR. Find out who won and more:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Meet Tonight's Smokin' Hot Chefs: 518 West vs Herons at the Umstead Hotel

You'll love the videos and great insider info in this post from Durham Foodie, the official blog of THE FIRE IN THE TRIANGLE. Get the inside scoop on these two competitors who have both already won tough battles and survived to compete tonight. The heat is ON!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

EatRaleigh Blog Recaps Battle Cantaloupe

Elliot Acosta of Eat Raleigh Blog talks about his experience and the great food served by Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne of 518 West and Chef Reto von Weissenfluh of Mia Francesca. 

How did this crazy competition start?

Eating My Words Blog with Jill Warren Lucas talks with founder and host Jimmy Crippen:

Does dessert rule? The last battle may indicate YES!

TBJ Flash and the Triangle Business Journal ask the key question: Is dessert the secret to Fire In The Triangle? Find out:

Great coverage you may have missed from blogger Kristen Baughman shares her experiences at Battle Bacon/Country Ham with Chef Ryan Payne from Southern Season’s Weathervane and Chef Chris Harris from North Raleigh’s Fork and Barrel:

On June 19,'s blog shared this post about Battle Eggs with Chef Matthew Hannon from Ashten's in Southern Pines and Chef Scott James from Midtowne Grill in Raleigh:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Meet The Chefs: The Oxford Vs. Chapel Hill Country Club

Johanna Kramer does Q&A with the chefs for tonight's June 26 battle between Chef Christopher Hill and Chef Jimmy Reale. Check it out:

TBJ Flash Says Battle Noodles Was About Dessert

Dathan Kazsuk, blogger for the Wilmington Business Journal, says Battle Noodles featured everything from lobster dumplings to a Wonton Pistachio Crusted Blackberry Cake from Chef Wendel. In his opinion, that dish tipped the scales. Read more:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Southern Sustenance- Competition Dining: Fire in the Triangle

Southern Sustenance talks Fire in the Triangle. Follow the link below to the blog.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

WRAL's OUT AND ABOUT blog Recaps Battles Noodle, Turkey and Cantaloupe

Kathy Hanrahan shared this update on the battle with noodles as the secret ingredient Monday night. This post just went up.

Kathy shared this recap on last week's EXTREMELY close battle between Mia Francesca Trattoria and 518 West Italian Cafe:

Don't miss Kathy's take on Battle Turkey between Chef Owner Chad McIntyre from Market in Raleigh and Herons' Chef John Childers from Cary. It was Battle Turkey:

Wanna see photos? Go to and click on "Photos" to see albums from all the events. You might recognize some of the guests.

The Gourmez Critiques Last Night's Battle Cantaloupe

Becca Gomez Farrell was one of our culinary pro judges on June 20 at Battle Cantaloupe. Competing chefs were from Mia Francesca Trattoria and 518 West Italian Cafe. Take a look at Becca's take on the food, the event, the courses.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Meet the Chefs: Mia Francesca Trattoria vs. 518 West Italian Cafe

Johanna Kramer's interviews with the June 20 competing chefs indicates that tonight's food may have an international flair as both chefs come from international backgrounds. Take a look. If you can't dine with us, follow us on Twitter with the hashtag: #compdiningnc or on our Competition Dining Facebook page. Posts usually start around 7 pm.  Don't miss the interviews:

Our bloggers chime in: Herons Vs. Market Battle Turkey

Durham Foodie's Johanna Kramer was on site in person last night and penned this post:

Triangle Business Journal's Dathan Kazsuk reports both the crowd and the chefs had "mixed emotions" about the secret ingredients. Be sure to check out his slide show to the right of the story:

Let us know what you thought!

WRAL Out and About Blog Gives Great Overviews

If you're familiar with the OUT AND ABOUT blog at, you'll know these guys are everywhere. Fire In the Triangle is no exception. Check out their latest blog post here:  You will see that they have the rundown on several dining events just to the left of this post. Stay tuned for more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tonight's Battle: Midtown Grille Versus Ashten's

Johanna Kramer has the inside scoop on tonight's chefs! Read her blog at for the Q&A on Chef Scot James from Midtown Grille in Raleigh and his competitor, Chef Matthew Hannon from Ashten's in Southern Pines, NC. At Fire in the Triangle, it's grill or be grilled!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Opening Night Blogs and Articles Around The Triangle

Follow all of the links below to see all of the articles and blogs from Fire in the Triangle opening night:

Triangle BizBlog- "Fire in the Triangle cooking competition kicks off," June 12, 2012

Cary Magazine- "Chef Showdown," June 12, 2012

Durham Foodie- "Fire in the Triangle, Night 1 – Foursquare v. Twisted Fork," June 12, 2012

What's on Tap- "Fire in the Triangle: Foursquare v. Twisted Fork Recap," June 12, 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fire In The Triangle Kicks Off This Week

This Wednesday Chef Ryan Payne of Chapel Hill's Weathervane takes on Fork and Barrel's Chef Chris Harris of Raleigh. REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR SMART DEVICE FOR VOTING.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fire on the Dock Final Two

The finale of Fire on the Dock is finally here!  Tomorrow night, two worthy chefs will battle it out for the win: Chef Andy Hopper from Chefs 105 and Chef Jerry Fong of Persimmons.  Who will come out on top? Tune into twitter @compdiningnc for the play-by-play. 

Andy Hopper of Chefs 105 

Chef Hopper was the winner of Battle Bacon and Country Ham, Battle Strawberries and Asparagus, and Battle Pasta and Quail. 

My cooking style is: Simple but effective contemporary American cuisine with a hints of Italian and Spanish influences.

My competitive advantage is: the fact that I have travelled the country and overseas to study at some of the greatest restaurants including The Four Seasons Resort and Troon North in Scottsdale, and the acclaimed Spiaggia Restaurant in Chicago. I am also a multiple-time winner of several local culinary competitions.

Chef Gerry Fong of Persimmons 
Chef Fong was the winner of Battle Heritage Farms Premium Pork, Battle Poulet Rouge and Perfect Puree, and Battle Certified Angus Beef®

My cooking style is: An intricate twist of my Chinese ancestry and Southern NC upbringing.  I use classical French technique to bring flavors together.

The NC ingredients I use are: everything from lettuce, beets, and pea tendrils to ground beef, pork and fresh fish. Every dish has a piece of NC in it and that allows us to showcase our unique take on "Southern Fusion." 

Good luck chefs!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Grand Finale seats available

Hey Dockers! A few seats just opened up for Tuesday's Grand Finale. Get ' while they're hot!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Interview with Chef Michael Foreman- Winner of Fire on the Rock 2012

Chef Michael Foreman

What first interested you about Fire on the Rock?
When we were first starting, our restaurant was kind of new on the block and we felt it was a good opportunity to promote ourselves and get out in the public’s eye. Part of my previous experience was that of doing mystery box competitions, or culinary competitions, so I had an itch to get back into doing full-on competitions.

What are some things that have changed throughout the years in the competition?
When we started off [seven years ago], we were in the basement of a hotel. There were four banquet tables down the middle of the crowd full of produce and they would have two judging tables. We would get our secret ingredient and away we would go.  I believe it was two years ago, three years ago, Jimmy decided to make it more of an elimination round tournament. We called it the sweet 16, where we would go his restaurant, compete restaurant against restaurant in elimination rounds. At that point the crowd was the full judge. This year is the first year that we’ve done it strictly all the way through where we’re in a restaurant producing plates for everyone, and then the weight of the judges 30% and the crowd 70%.

Was that something that the chefs recommended?
Yeah. We all kind of felt like the judges’ opinions were vital to it. The IT team came up with this formula where they figured out that if the judges weighed in at 30% and the crowd weighed in at 70% that it would allot for people who felt like they knew their restaurant’s food and really scored poorly against the other chef. Our theory is that if a chef can put anything on the table, if there’s anything on that plate, even if your battle was strawberries and you put just a strawberry on the plate, there’s no reason to give somebody a zero.  We’re advocates for balance in this whole thing and I think the formula works well.

What was your strategy this year? Did you have a certain strategy?
Win. Do everything to finally win. This is my third win, my first in the new format. I’ve got a strong team, a great team. We’re meticulous about our food at our restaurant. We’re always researching products. We follow the trends of the big cities and we try to bring them into our little small mountain community. A lot of times it’s received and a lot of times it’s not received very well. People don’t come to the mountains necessarily looking to go to New York or Chicago or London or Paris and see what the hot new trends are. But for ourselves, we try to push ourselves further and always learn.Our strategy was just to be honest. Be honest with our food. Be honest with our ingredients. Push ourselves in every battle. I would spend countless hours studying who we were going to battle next, figuring out what style they cooked in or what thing they traditionally leaned into for their flavor format and we tried to counter them.

My executive sous chef, Seth Parker, is fabulous at executing desserts, so we knew specifically walking in that I would take the first two courses and he would strictly spend his entire time working on the desserts. The downfalls of chefs are usually when they think they know everything. I relied heavily on my team heavily to critique and taste so we had a balance that our entire team could walk out and feel like they represented. We just tried to be balanced, no egos, more passion in the kitchen than egos.

Team Bistro Roca
How did you choose your team?
Seth Parker, and I battled in Fire on the Rock in battle strawberries. He was smart. I beat him by one point. I walked across the stage, shook his hand, and then told him I would never battle him again because he was going to come work for me and he’s worked for me ever since. So he was my no-brainer choice; he’s my right hand. For Bistro Roca, my name’s attached to it, but he is every bit of 50% of the culinary talent attached to that restaurant and doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. But he very much is as much of that restaurant as I am. We wouldn’t be near as successful the past few years if I didn’t have him at the helm as well. It’s hard to find someone you fully, fully trust and he’s that guy.

I try to rotate year after year with other employees for my third person. The gentleman, Scott Phan, who was on the team this year was just a really good kid. He’s a local. He grew up in the restaurant business. His mother’s food is fantastic. She uses intricate ingredients, very true to form, very classic styles of Asian cuisine. I figured he would be a very good hand to have in there if we happened to draw some abstract ingredient. Plus, he knows our cooking styles exceptionally well. He’s trained under Seth and I. He’s earned our respect to be promoted into that slot.

What was your favorite battle of the competition?
This year, it was bison. Cinnamon and lavender was tough. I can’t stand cinnamon. The sturgeon was exceptionally fun for us because I know the family that started that program and I’ve really been waiting to see that program come on board. I’m a huge sturgeon fan. I’ve worked with it pretty excessively. But the bison was fun. Being from out west, I love playing with your heritage iconic breeds of animals such as the bison. It’s strong in everybody’s memory. To be able to execute it to the table and educate people a little more on the versatility of it was a lot of fun for us.

What made you decide to move to Blowing Rock?
I was living and working in Colorado; I met my wife there. We decided we wanted to leave Colorado. We threw a dart at a U.S. map and it hit Asheville, NC. We sold everything we had if it didn’t fit in my Jeep and a small U-haul trailer. We came across the U.S. to Asheville with no jobs, no house, no anything to start our new lives. I was very fortunate. I had a good background in the culinary arts and was able to meet some good connections. I was in Asheville for a short stead. I was in Hendersonville at Pine Lake in as their head chef for a short stead. [Then] we took off to France to live and work. We came back and came up to the high country to see about it. We fell in love and moved here immediately.

What do you believe was your most successful dish in the competition this year?
On the final battle when we had battle chocolate, Seth and I had sat down for about a week and a half discussing ideas. I finally turned to Seth and I said we were going to have to do this that no one would try to do, things that are hard to execute and execute well in the time frame. So we have and it’s either we win it or we lose it, but at least we know we tried. Like I said, I can lean on Seth for the desserts heavily. I had suggested a cake that we did [when I worked in France] that was very classic French cake everyone recognizes it, which is the Harlequin cake, the checkerboard cake. And so I looked at Seth and I said “I want a Harlequin cake.” Then we started talking about lemon curd and how lemon curd is becoming a lost art and bringing lemon curd into the formula. [We talked about] doing an array of very classic unexpected items teamed perfectly on one plate. For two straight nights [Seth] text messaged me with photographs every hour on the hour of new samples. He was at his house an additional 30 hours a week doing desserts and sending me photos on the execution of these desserts to figure out which one I want, showing me close ups and tweaking his recipes. Even though it wasn’t the high scoring dish on the final battle, by the end of the first two courses and the second two courses it was a dead heat and when we heard his score on that dessert, we knew we won. Hands down, I would say it was his devotion to what we were doing, what we were there for, and to his craft. That was probably the best course; that was THE course.

What is your ultimate culinary goal?
I’ve never sought after fame and fortune. I’ve kept the mantra that I don’t do this for the money. My ultimate culinary goal is to never stop loving it. I think the day I lose the passion for food and the excitement that food brings to me, and the excitement of cooking and seeing the reaction on people’s faces, it’s time for me to walk away.

How was your visit to Fire on the Dock and what was it like being on the other side of the competition? 
It was really cool. It was really interesting to actually sit at the table at the exact moment that people were getting there food and get a feel for how fast the food was coming out, what were the temperatures of the food when they got to us? What were the aromas on the plate?  One of the things we get scored on is the aroma, but when we’re plating we’re not stopping every fifteen plates, picking up a plate and putting it close to our face going “Okay, great you can smell the secret ingredient.” No, we’re trying to jam out 120 plates within nine minutes. So it was really interesting to see the score sheet, the dishes, the room, the reactions and facial expressions, and watching people put the first bite in their mouth. I would pick my plate up immediately and smell it, but I purposefully waited until everybody at my table put the first bite in their mouth and I watched their reactions, and then I took my first bite. I was very methodical in how I was enjoying the experience. I was very much doing R&D the whole time I was at the table. It really gave me a whole new perspective. 

Have things changed at all since winning the competition?
No, because everybody up here knows everybody. It’s a very small community. My sous chef Seth was in this abstract grocery store in the middle of nowhere and he was picking out steaks when someone turned to him and said, “you’re the boy who won Fire on the Rock, we saw you in the paper.” So we sort of laugh about that. People know us and it’s nice that people come up and congratulate you and have them look at you and say “You were well due” “It was your turn.” We did it for the community and we did it because we wanted to win it. We’re back to our everyday lives, waiting for all the other ones to end to see where this goes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Who's In The Running For The Finale?

Only one more week until the final battle of Fire on the Dock 2012. Who will be in that battle? That decision will be made this week. In the running are the following chefs: Andy Hopper, Marc Copenhaver, Gerry Fong, and Kirsten Mitchell.

Andy Hopper of Chefs 105 

Chef Hopper was the winner of Battle Bacon and Country Ham and Battle Strawberries and Asparagus. He will compete tomorrow against Chef Marc Copenhaver. 

My cooking style is: Simple but effective contemporary American cuisine with a hints of Italian and Spanish influences.

My competitive advantage is: the fact that I have travelled the country and overseas to study at some of the greatest restaurants including The Four Seasons Resort and Troon North in Scottsdale, and the acclaimed Spiaggia Restaurant in Chicago. I am also a multiple-time winner of several local culinary competitions.

Chef Marc Copenhaver of Marc's on Market

Chef Copenhaver was the winner of Battle Bison and Battle NC Shrimp. He will be competing tomorrow against Chef Andy Hopper. 
My cooking style is: A contemporary, seasonal, wine-friendly style.  It's comfort and style in balance. 
My competitive advantage is: the fact that I have been an undefeated champion in other chef competitions.  Our restaurant is continuously ranked as one of Southeast NC's finest and we've even won third place in the 2011NC Best Dish Competition.

Chef Gerry Fong of Persimmons 
Chef Fong was the winner of Battle Heritage Farms Premium Pork and Battle Poulet Rouge and Perfect Puree. He will compete on Wednesday against Chef Kirsten Mitchell. 

My cooking style is: An intricate twist of my Chinese ancestry and Southern NC upbringing.  I use classical French technique to bring flavors together.

The NC ingredients I use are: everything from lettuce, beets, and pea tendrils to ground beef, pork and fresh fish. Every dish has a piece of NC in it and that allows us to showcase our unique take on "Southern Fusion." 

Chef Kirsten Mitchell of Cameo 1900

Chef Mitchell was the winner of Battle Eggs and Battle Ashe County Cheese. She will compete on Wednesday against Chef Gerry Fong.

Our restaurant features: a menu that includes flavorful, thoughtful, high quality dishes served tapas style. Small plates, which are designed to be shared and paired, offer a chance to experience many diverse dishes and flavors. Stop in tonight to try our award-winning 1900 Mac & Cheese, voted “Best Hot Plate” at the 2011 Taste of Wilmington. 

My cooking style is: Simple and sophisticated, but also very diverse.

Good luck chefs!